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Amid coronavirus, Navajo Nation to go under 57-hour weekend curfew starting 8 p.m. Friday

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — Residents on the Navajo Nation will be under a 57-hour curfew this weekend, as tribal officials continue efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in communities.

The latest public health emergency order by the Navajo Department of Health, issued on April 5, implements a curfew from 8 p.m. April 10 to 5 a.m. April 13.

The Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President announced the latest order in an April 6 press release.

The release states that the weekend curfew does not apply to essential employees, but individuals failing to comply "will result in a citation and fine."

The Navajo Police Department will increase activities to monitor roadways during the weekend curfew, the release states.

Curfew violators face penalties

Navajo Police Chief Phillip Francisco provided further information during a virtual town hall on April 5 for violating the nightly curfew, which the health department implemented last week.

Francisco said individuals found not complying with the orders could be charged with criminal nuisance, an offense in the tribe's criminal code.

Those found guilty face 30 days in jail or a fine of $1,000 or both, he said.

"We will issue citations, if needed, if we find out that you are traveling unnecessarily," Francisco said.

MORE:Navajo Nation police chief: Avoid getting a citation, comply with curfew

Officers continue to respond to emergency situations, but if a person knowingly exposes an officer to COVID-19, they will be charged with battery of a police officer under the tribe's criminal code as well as face federal charges, he said.

"I'm taking my officers safety very, very seriously and I will pursue those with the U.S. attorney's office and the tribal prosecutors to make sure people do not put my officers in undue danger," he said.

Illegal dumping not allowed

The Navajo Nation government is continuing its effort to address the coronavirus pandemic and keeping tribal members informed through virtual town hall meetings organized by the tribe's Office of the President and Vice President.

The latest meeting was on April 5 and had a range of information from top tribal officials, health care personnel and division directors.

In his remarks, President Jonathan Nez said his office has been receiving reports about illegal dumping due to transfer stations operated by chapter houses are closed.

"Please don't just throw your trash into the arroyos," Nez said adding that his office is working toward reopening such services.

MORE:San Juan County releases app to report illegal dumping of trash

San Juan County spokesman Devin Neeley said the county's transfer stations are open and continue to operate under normal business hours and service pricing.

"We have not closed any transfer stations. In fact, we held dumpster day on Saturday and 11 out of 12 stations were open," Neeley said.

A sign outside the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock directs people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms on where to go on March 24.

Emergency funding aids coronavirus response

Viewers heard about recent federal funding to the Indian Health Service as well.

Brian Johnson, acting deputy director for the Navajo Area IHS, said the agency continues to use funding to address the coronavirus pandemic.

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In the first emergency funding bill — the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act — the IHS received $70 million from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.

The agency received $64 million to support the cost of testing for COVID-19 by IHS-operated facilities, tribal-operated health centers and urban clinics under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The recently authorized Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provided $1 billion to the IHS for distribution to direct services, tribal health programs and urban health programs for Native Americans.

MORE:Navajo Nation Council approves emergency funding for COVID-19 response

"Any funding that we receive, we're trying to get that out as quickly as we can to our tribal partners and hopefully that will be very useful in pursuing this pandemic," Johnson said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.